Clan Goliath Scorpion Field Headquarters; Bayern
Memmingen, Clan Goliath Scorpion Occupation Zone
December 25, 3043
“Khan Nikolai Djerassi, may I present Marshal Stephen Davion, commander of the 1st Federated Suns Armored Cavalry?” Jason Scott said after he ushered the prisoner into the office of Khan.
Nikolai stood and he smiled at the cousin of Hanse Davion warmly, gesturing towards a chair set beside the roaring fireplace. “I am honored, Marshal Davion; thank you for making a quick transit so that the two of us could have this meeting.”
“I had little enough choice in the matter,” replied Stephen. “I am, after all, your captive.”
Nikolai sat and he poured two glasses of whiskey, and he shook his head. “Guest is how I would term it, Marshal Davion . . . after all, I mean to release you today.”
The high-ranking officer jerked at the bald statement as Nikolai nodded his affirmation. “I am sending you to Melissa Steiner-Davion, Marshal Davion, to convey a message for me—unless you would rather stay as a Goliath Scorpion bondsman, that is?”
Stephen slowly shook his head and he sank down in the empty sofa chair and lifted the tumbler of whiskey, taking a long pull. “What sort of message are you sending? Khan Djerassi,” he quickly added seeing Jason’s frown from where the armed Scorpion stood beside the door.
“A message that she will be grateful to receive—one in which I will provide her with the means of ending this War.”
“Ending this war?” Stephen repeated. “If you plan on having me present her with your terms, you might as well not send me—they will not be received . . . and soon enough we will throw you off of our worlds.”
The Scorpion smiled. “You might . . . you also might not. And even if you are able to do so, then the killing will go on and on and on. More proud Regiments such as your own Armored Cavalry will be will destroyed; more sons and daughters of the Lyran Commonwealth and Federated Suns and Draconis Combine will give their lives in a gallant effort to stem the tide of losses you have suffered at our hands—but neither your victory, nor ours, is certain.”
Nikolai lifted his own tumbler and took a sip, then he sat the glass down once again. “Do you know why we invaded you, Marshal Davion?”
“You intend to conquer the Inner Sphere, to punish us for what you think our ancestors did to General Kerensky and the soldiers of the SLDF.”
“You are partially correct, but not entirely, Marshal Davion. Did Wolf inform you of the divide between the Crusaders and the Wardens?”
Stephen’s eyes narrowed and he slowly shook his head. “No . . . and I begin to suspect there are many things about the Clans which he did not tell us ahead of time.”
The Khan nodded his agreement. “You cannot fault Supreme Commander Wolf, Marshal Davion—after all, he views the Clans through his own prism of experience. He is a free-birth, considered even in his very liberal Clan Wolf as a second-rate warrior fit only for deeds not worth a true-born. He carries his own prejudices and bigotries within him, although he is more than capable of setting them aside in pursuit of victory—as are most of the Clan Warriors.”
“We have two factions in Clan society, Marshal Davion, the Crusaders and the Wardens. The Crusaders, who are in ascendancy at the moment, believe that Aleksandyr Kerensky promised the Clans that one day we would return to rule the Inner Sphere—to reestablish a Star League that unites all of humanity under its rule. To achieve this goal, much like Ian Cameron did when he established the First Star League, the Crusaders are willing to impose their views with military force. Only this time, Marshal Davion, it is the Great Houses who are playing the role of the Periphery States.”
Nikolai lifted his tumbler and took another sip. “The Wardens opposed this Invasion in philosophy, believing that we should instead return after humanity united and offer to the new Star League our honorable service in defense of the human race—against threats both foreign and domestic; a new Star League Defense Force, if you will whole-cut from the cloth of the ancient SLDF but with our own traditions and honorable leanings.”
“And yet you all invaded,” said Stephen flatly.
“Of course,” agreed Nikolai. “The debate was won by the Crusaders and the Invasion would take place—given the choice between sitting in the Homeworlds and doing nothing, or taking part, the Wardens chose to participate. And yet, we remain Wardens.”
He took another sip of whiskey, and Stephen raised his own glass to his lips. “The key here is the Star League. If the Inner Sphere were to formally unite and form a Second Star League—on its own, without having it imposed upon them by the Crusaders—that action, combined with a defeat of our forces by the Inner Sphere would cause many nominally Crusader Clans to change to the Warden philosophy. A Star League that opened its arms to accept the Clans and offered them a place at the table here in the Inner Sphere would end all justification for the Invasion.”
Stephen shook his head. “So you just want Archon Melissa and Prince Hanse to reform the Star League—and then invite you invaders to join? And that alone would end the fighting?” His expression showed that he believed Nikolai was utterly made.
“Our plan is not quite that simple, but at its core, yes. It must be accompanied by a defeat—not a pyrrhic victory, but an absolute unquestioned defeat of the Clans by the Inner Sphere—to show the Crusaders that we underestimated the ability and courage and honor and unity of the Inner Sphere.” Nikolai shrugged. “It may well not work, but if it does we can end this Invasion on honorable terms for all involved.”
“Why would we even consider such? So far, your Clans have only fought our forces involved in holding actions, to delay and wound you—soon enough you will be stopped and then our counter-offensive will come.”
“From Wolf’s Grand Army? From the force that Theodore and Takashi Kurita are assembling on Luthien? From the combined Regiments of the Federated Commonwealth that your cousin has stacked and ready to go once we stick in our heads just a little bit farther? Please, Marshal Davion, give me some credit. You will achieve local victories where you can manage a concentration of force—but the only way you are going to be able to transport such a massive number of troops is by gutting your own economies. Bear in mind, as well, that we have committed less than a third of the Clan’s available strength—and that the ilKhan has formed a new, seventeenth Clan in the midst of the Invasion, the Stone Lions. You might well know their Khan: Natasha Kerensky.”
Nikolai took another sip. “Your counter-offensive will meet with success in places and defeat elsewhere; it will not drive us from the Inner Sphere—in that you will fail. You might crush three, perhaps even four, Clans, or rather their forces present here at this time. But then you will run out of steam and with your economy crashing down around you, our reinforcements will arrive—including Warriors from those Clans you consider defeated. And this War will drag on for year after bloody year, with casualty counts growing ever larger.”
“And how long will it continue before agitation growing in your own nations reaches the boiling point? Duke Sandoval very nearly caused conflict between Hanse and Takashi very recently—Skye is racked by strikes and protests, many provinces of the Free Worlds League object to Thomas sending more troops, your own Capellan March is furious with Hanse for giving up their worlds to Candace Liao! And you have pirates on the edges of civilization making matters worse as your garrisons which once kept them at bay are being redeployed to fight us.”
“We cannot defeat you; we simply do not have the numbers to conquer and garrison the entire Inner Sphere. Neither can you defeat us, not without unlocking your nuclear arsenals, in which case we will release our own in response—and civilization in the Inner Sphere will die. I seek a third way in this War, a way that we—as the Clans of Kerensky—can acknowledge your valor and that your way of life can be preserved. And that, in time, both of us might learn from the other and our societies grow stronger, united under the banner of a new Star League.”
“You are insane,” whispered Stephen.
“Am I? Perhaps so. But that is a matter for another day—will you carry my message to Melissa?”
“I’ll carry your message, Khan Djerassi, but neither Thomas nor Takashi will accept Hanse Davion as First Lord.”
“Did I say that Hanse Davion would have to be First Lord, Marshal Davion?” Nikolai smiled. “You have already appointed Jaime Wolf as Supreme Commander of forces from all five of the Great Houses and ComStar—he is a child of the Clans, who now defends the Inner Sphere. And he stands apart from the feuds of your Great Houses—I would suggest that Melissa look to him, and to the victory he is soon to achieve; a victory which will cause his star to rise even more so in the eyes of your own people.”
Stephen Davion sat back in his chair, stunned by the quiet words; he lifted the glass and drained it and shook his head. “Even if she can convince Takashi and Hanse and Thomas and Candace and the Primus to agree to this, can you assure me that the Clans will stop?”
“No. I cannot promise anything, but this: if the Star League is reformed, than Clan Goliath Scorpion will serve it. Others might as well, the Nova Cats and perhaps a few others, but I will promise Melissa Steiner-Davion that if the Second Star League is formed, and if that plus the defeat which Jaime Wolf will hand to us in the very near future does not convince my trothkin of their fundamental error; then I shall lead my Scorpions into the service of the Star League Reformed—all of my Scorpions. That is to include those Scorpion Warriors, Scientists, Merchants, Technicians, and Laborers within the Homeworlds who are preparing to move to the Chainelaine Isles and Scorpion holdings in our Invasion Zone. Tell Melissa that if worse to comes, my Scorpions shall forsake the Clans in order to serve the Star League—in exchange for seven worlds which we can call our own: Asta, Atria, Dyev, Imbros III, Lambrecht, Moore, and Sabik. And in exchange, this new Star League can call upon seven Galaxies of Scorpion Warriors and twenty-three WarShips. A fair trade, would you not say, Marshal Davion, quiaff?”
Stephen sat down his empty glass and he stared at Nikolai. “They will call you a traitor.”
“And they will be correct, from their point of view. I do not think it come to that, provided that Jaime Wolf does not allow us to achieve a victory on Tukayyid, Marshal Davion. But all of this is for naught if Melissa cannot convince the other Lords of the Great Houses to reform the Star League—that is the key, Marshal Davion. Without that, my Scorpions will not follow my lead—they will shoot me down themselves. Without a new Star League, the future is bleak for both our peoples.”
Nikolai stood, and Stephen followed. “There is a JumpShip resting at a close proximity point, as well as a DropShip at the spaceport, Marshal Davion. The crew of both will follow your instructions—Melissa is scheduled to meet with Hanse and her children on Arcturus in a few weeks. You can deliver your message there.”
“And my men?”
“Those not claimed as bondsmen are already aboard the ship, Marshal Davion—I can do no more. Other than to wish you success.”
Nikolai held out his hand, and slowly Stephen Davion nodded. Then he grasped it and the two men shook.